Does Welsh Have A Future...?

There’s a lot of coverage today on Radio Cymru asking the question - “Does Welsh have a future beyond the classroom?” It kicked of on Post Cyntaf and continues with the below programme at half twelve and on Taro Post at one. Also it’s an item on Newyddion Naw S4C tonight.

Much of the discussion is based on Dr. Sion Aled Jones research into the usage of Cymraeg beyond the classroom…

“Dr Owen’s research will include discussing with the pupils themselves both individually and within focus groups to discover the reasons why they do or do not choose to use Welsh beyond the classroom. Throughout the project he will be working closely with teachers and other education professionals as well as seeking the views and experiences of parents of pupils in Welsh medium education.”

In Dr Owen’s view, “It is not an exaggeration to say that the focus of this research is one of the most vital fields of study in relation to ensuring that the Welsh language survives and flourishes as a living language of community.”


Just this minute spotted this too…


I will have a look at this tonight. It is something that is really interesting me at the moment, especially after watching the latest series about Pen Llyn.

I have kind of come to the conclusion that Welsh is facing a two pronged ‘attack’:

The first is from the ‘incomer’ situation.

The second is that English is also becoming/has become the Lingua Franca of the world. There was a programme on the World Service last night about ‘british’ humour, and there was a short piece on the fact that English is currently the fastest growing language in the world, mainly because it has been adopted as the Lingua Franca of business etc.

During the programme about Pen Llyn, Episode 4, there was a lady talking about how she chooses to use English when she talks to learners because it is easier and quicker, but she recognised this was not helping her native tongue. I fear that the innate politeness, and the willingness to automatically switch to English is as much to blame as anything else. There appears to be an unwritten ‘assume no Welsh’ rule.

So to me, as an outsider, I wonder if the education blocks are already in place? e.g the great programme ‘Make me Welsh’ showed that some education authorities have got it ‘nailed’. The strategies are there, but further progress might only be possible if Welsh speakers insist on Welsh in day-to-day life and do not automatically switch to English.

Is that is a real challenge? and will people take that risk because as the programme about Pen Llyn showed, so much of the economy relies on tourism and being ‘welcoming’ to visitors.


As ever you beat me to it, Kim (must get up earlier)
Let’s hope Dr Owen’s research gives a “boost” to other efforts to save/promote Welsh.

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That’ll mean getting up just after four, Huw…

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You can hear the discussion which starts eleven minutes in…It was interesting to hear the headmaster of Ysgol y Preseli Crymych in Little England beyond Wales where they seem to have some success with getting young people to use Gymraeg…

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Not true, of course. Was once, when map splotched red all over, but now, it’s American that rules!!! :wink:


Not quite the case, Kim. Crymych is in North Pembs which is and always has been Welsh-speaking. The so-called Little England is the area further south where the English language was established many centuries ago (possibly at the same time as in North Devon across the sea) and where you’ll find very many long-established English language place names.


Which is a noble and rich variety of English as is Australian, Canadian, and Geordie.
(I am aware, of course, of the importance of Spanish, French and other languages in North America)


And Wenglish! :wink:

41 min’s in you can hear, in English, young people talking about speaking Gymraeg. Worth a listen!!!

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I’m outsider, but as far as I see this is destroying the language the most! (sorry, but that’s how I see it).

For example, I’d say “Os gwelwch yn dda” rather then “plis” … no matter how strange it appears and how many words you have to use only for one simple “please”.

I agree that language has to develope and if Cymraeg has Wenglishisms, Slovene has Germanisms in its language quite a lot. This is not entirely possible to stop, but anyway.

And … no matter how hard times I’d have and how much I might moan (as always), when/if I come to Cymru one day I DEMAND all those who can, have to speak Cymraeg to me. I will be out of steam soon, I know this even now but I believe it’s vitally important for the language - if you can speak it you should use it.

I also think that NO LANGUAGE at all should be more or less important. Every single language of this World is EQUALLY important and if/where/when it can be used it should be used.

Hmmm. I was referring to the variety of English that is spoken in Wales - it has been influenced in many ways both in grammar and vocabulary by Welsh amongst other things. Hence:

I does love a cwtch, isn’t it?

and so on. :smiley:


Henddraig, Huw, agreed. This programme of the World Service made that point very clearly. The were saying that the English used as a ‘Lingua Franca’ would definitely not be recognised as ‘proper’ here.

They used the example of Does / Do. This chap explained that world wide, the es of Does if often dropped, so we get for e.g

He do it
I do it

Sorry, wish I could remember the programme name, I was drifting in and out of sleep, isn’t that the sole purpose of the World Service, to keep insomniacs company during the small hours…?


Ups, sorry, then I’ve missunderstood the thingy. But anyway it goes forth and back :slight_smile: However English as so widely spoken in the world will kind of develope this way, Cymraeg on the other hand can be destroyed this way (my thought again).

In the news report Dr Owen says, “Ultimately, if the Welsh language is only seen as an added qualification, which of course it is, if it is only seen as that and not as something important in life then children, especially those whose first language is English, will quite naturally revert to their first language.”

If the language needs English first language people to ‘insist’ on speaking Welsh, then I believe that building up the Welsh cultural environment outside of established institutions is important.

For instance, one of the reasons kids speak Welsh in a school classroom environment is because that is what is expected. Outside of that environment, unless they are particularly driven their ‘normal’ lives will only take place in Welsh where their ‘normal’ is available in Welsh e.g. Family, music, sports, clubs, computer games.

A national strategy may struggle (although it can’t be impossible!) to change someone’s family environment in language terms. But a strategy for developing music, sports, and club etc provision in Welsh may be more successful. However, that may be controversial if one group appears to be receiving more funding.

To counter this controversy, perhaps we (Welsh language supporters) could do more to explain why Welsh is important in terms of identity. And why that is important for national confidence and important for the things the media constantly tell us people care about, e.g. the economy.


Let me preference this with, I don’t speak Welsh (yet), I live in the US, and I’ve never been to Wales. Feel free to skip this comment if you so desire.

Honestly, I think Welsh faces the same sort of issue in Wales that Mexican immigrants (we’ll go with that, since I’m in Texas, and not, say Florida or NY), have in Texas getting their children and grandchildren to continue to speak Spanish. Same issue with hearing children of deaf parents in this area. Saw the same issue with a Chinese family at a preschool I worked at. It’s a similar trend all around. 1st generation speaks it, 2nd generation speaks it as a home language and also speaks the common language of the area they are raised in, 3rd generation doesn’t speak it at all.

I could go into all the stuff linguists talk about, but what it comes down to is…the 1st generation has the home culture, social groups, as well as services they rely on, that demand they speak that language. The 2nd generation may be forced to speak it at home, but elsewhere? It’s useless to them. So they don’t bother teaching their children. Whether or not is has to do with identity or culture, the language just slips while other parts of the culture remain.

Wales is unique in that you’ve got the primary/elementary (I’m not sure what you call it in the UK. Anyhow, little kids, ages 5-12 or so) schools teaching it, which is a huge boost, so you’ve got the young speakers without having to rely on parents 1) knowing Welsh 2) making it the home language. So I’m guessing what you are lacking are main stream services and social circles that demand speaking in Welsh outside of school. Like, say, making the local football club for kids Welsh only, both in casual chatter and in instruction. Having local restaurants go Welsh only unless requested otherwise. Having Welsh speaking adults…speak Welsh! Try Welsh first when encountering a new face or business. Speak Welsh first to children, and continue to speak Welsh even if the kids’ Welsh isn’t that great.

I think that’s why I picked up American Sign Language so quickly, we didn’t have the option of just reverting to spoken English, and texting back and forth in the aisle was too slow.

It’s really a huge effort by lots of people to make speaking Welsh (or Spanish or whatever) outside the home something commonplace. And not just commonplace. Spanish is common place in Texas. But it is not necessary in the least. I can go to an all Spanish speaking part of town for barbacoa (don’t look that up), and I can still order in English. I could use what little Spanish I have but, honestly, a month with SSIW has given me more useful things to say in Welsh than I have to say in Spanish, and I have taken 7+ years of Spanish in my life (and lived about 6 months in Mexico), with endless opportunity to speak it (but why bother? The only time I really needed Spanish was on a construction site when all the directions “climb down the ladder and get the hammer” were in Spanish, so it was figure it out or stand around stupid). Again, I know more useful things in sign language than in Spanish because when you need to use sign language it YOU HAVE TO USE IT or else you don’t get to have that conversation.

My thought? Make Welsh a necessity. Humans will always do the lazy thing (revert to most common shared language) so you have to make Welsh the price of entry into things kids really want, and continue to keep it relevant that way as people grow up. (I won’t pretend I have any specific ideas on that lol)

Another thought, about adapting English words into Welsh. I think it’s pretty neutral. The French are so hard core about not adopting words into French officially…but everyone uses them anyhow. And where are the most French speakers, and where is French growing fastest? Northern Africa! Where they don’t care for France’s very strict rules on importing loan words. Where French is growing best while it adopts all sorts of new words for a ton of different reasons.

Look at English, what is that quote about English not just borrowing words from other languages, but following them down dark alleys, knocking them out, and rifling their pockets for words? The bigger Welsh gets, now, the more loan words it’s bound to import, and I think that’s just fine. Restricting that will restrict the utility of a language to be a language. Been watching PYC last few days and it’s a riot watching the characters be like “Ok, reit, plis, chill” and then carry on in Welsh at top speed. lol


I disagree. Adopting words from other languages has never harmed them linguistically. All languages borrow from others to varying degrees - and even in extreme cases, such as when the language that was Old English borrowed so heavily from Norman and Old French and more recently Latin that over 50% of the modern vocabulary is of ultimately Latin origin, the core of English has still remained identifiably a Germanic language, and English certainly hasn’t “become” French. Rather, it’s taken that vocabulary and made it its own.

The same is true of Welsh. Welsh has been borrowing from English for a very long time - for example, cusan “kiss” was borrowed from an Old English verb meaning “to kiss” and has been in the language since at least the 13th century according to Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru.

There are certainly many threats to the future of the Welsh language, but in my opinion, loanwords are definitely not one of them :slight_smile:


And the German for “to kiss” is “küssen” which interestingly looks more like Welsh “cusan” than English “kiss” (“Kissen” in German means “cushion” - a false friend leading to hilarious results).

Does Welsh have a future? Of course: according to Gareth King it has 3 futures:

  1. inflected 2. periphrastic with “bod” 3. periphrastic with “gwneud”…

OK, more seriously, I think it will have a future when its young people have a reason to think that they will have at least as good a life (economically as well as culturally) speaking Welsh as speaking English. That will require some fairly major changes to the economy of Wales. That’s not a coded plea for independence which would not necessarily help. If the Westrminster government is as committed to the Union as it says, then it should be working more closely with the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish governments to develop the economies of those regions, and those governments should be keeping Westminster on its toes.


ah! Love this! Dying of laughter! (I have a weird sense of humor)